The ability to market your green building’s attributes is a core benefit of incorporating sustainable practices, but there’s still a lot of confusion about how to tout your accomplishments in a meaningful way. Marketing green features is important to leverage your investment, but if done poorly, it can confuse your customers. The directives behind your campaign carry far more weight than the marketing tactics you implement. To effectively market your building’s sustainable features and bring relevance to your customers, follow the three Cs: credibility, context, and consistency.
Make your claims honest and tangible. Use straightforward communication to describe what you did, why you did it, and what benefit you created. Mention the certifications you secured that validate your efforts, or provide actual building data or studies that support your accomplishments. For example, a building owner in Portland, OR, had an external waste audit performed to verify that his facility’s recycling efforts divert 83 percent of waste from the landfill.
Be wary of the tendency to overstate your claims. Many have fallen into this trap while trying to gain attention. Your customers are far less interested in knowing that your building is the first 10-stry LEED Gold building with a white facade on Main Street than knowing what you actually implemented (and the difference it makes).
Author, educator, and management consultant Peter Drucker knew that value lies in what the customer perceives. “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It’s what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for … ” he explains. Tie value to the customer’s priorities and ensure that your marketing messages speak to that need. Tell your customers in simple and genuine terms how you achieved certification and what these measures mean for building occupants, the community, and the environment.
The context is defined by what’s relevant to your end-user. Each city will have its own demographics and dynamics that influence your customer’s outlook. The desire for Class-A or Class-B office space and the nuances of occupancy rates also come into play when determining your customer’s decision-making drivers.
For value-oriented customers drawn to Class-B office space, clearly demonstrate the value proposition of moving into a green building. Focus on the fact that you created a high-performance work environment and lowered operating costs. In other words, your message should state this: “Why pay for Class-A office space when you can have all the benefits of it at a lower price?”
Those drawn to Class-A office space have a different set of priorities. You can differentiate yourself from standard Class-A offices by using a marketing message that states: “Is it really a Class-A space in today’s marketplace if it doesn’t include high-performance measures and offer a healthier work environment?” Class-A office seekers are also generally image oriented and want to be perceived as leaders. Three years ago, a study showed that two-thirds of Global Fortune 500 companies were issuing standalone reports that dealt solely with their environmental and social initiatives; the interest in sustainability among this group continues to rise. Choosing to locate in a facility that incorporates green measures sends a message to companies’ employees and clients that they’re concerned about important issues and among the best in their class.
One often overlooked aspect of green marketing is consistency. Make sure every aspect of your marketing effort tells the building’s green story accurately: interpretive signage in the building, your website, brochures and other collateral, and your staff (real estate brokers, asset managers, property managers, etc.). Customers are dissuaded by inconsistency, and confusion can open the door to skepticism. Frequently, brokers representing the building to potential customers don’t know about the green building aspects. Train those who represent your facility to speak comfortably about your philosophy, implemented green features, and on how the green investments benefit building occupants.
Help the building tell its own story to create a word-of-mouth campaign. To educate, inform, and entertain, use engaging signage, video feeds, and energy usage meters that show how much energy is being offset. These measures can draw the public in to make your building a destination and help it sell itself.
If you have vacant space, present your building as a venue for educational events. Reach out to local AIA, ASHRAE, BOMA, and green building chapters, and donate your space for their meetings. Offer tours of the facility. If you set your building up to tell the story, the people who leave your facility become part of your sales force.
Properly marketing your green building can have many positive outcomes. In addition to bringing in new customers, once your campaign aligns with the three Cs, it can inspire your representatives, generate new ideas, and infuse pride in your workplace.
Jay Coalson, LEED AP, is president and CEO at Green Building Services Inc., one of the most comprehensive sustainable consulting firms in the nation. The firm provides environmental leadership and practical applications for green building projects in the United States and around the world. Jay can be reached at 866-743-4277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.